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tv   Democracy Now  LINKTV  May 12, 2015 9:00am-10:01am PDT

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[chirping] narrator: willem de kooning... his works are among those that defined abstract expressionism. he became one of the most influential painters of the 20th century. today, de kooning is considered a great american master.
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de kooning, narrating: when i start something and the unexpected happens but not always for the good... i mean, i work very spontaneously. in other words i make the best of it.
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narrator: born in rotterdam in 1904, de kooning was apprenticed at age 12 to a local painting and decorating firm. at night, he attended the rotterdam academy of fine arts and techniques. there he received formal training, drawing from the model and rendering traditional subjects such as still lifes. recent avant-garde movements such as jugendstil with its sensuous line fascinated the young painter. [foghorn sounding] at age 22, de kooning emigrated to america working his way aboard a ship. he settled in hoboken, new jersey where he supported himself as a house painter. de kooning soon moved across the hudson river to new york city. there, he met other aspiring painters,
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including arshile gorky and stuart davis. de kooning's art duri these lean years revealed his interest in abstraction. these compositions echoed the surrealism of miro and picasso and of his friend gorky. in 1936, de kooning's work was included in a group show at the museum of modern art. he now painted full-time not forgetting his formal training in figure painting. his primary subject was the male figure. his models were friends, such as rudolph burckhardt the photographer and the poet edwin denby. somber tonalities, traditional compositions surfaces scraped and sanded until smooth, characterized the artist's work in the 1930s. line defined the images. de kooning made use of his academic skills as a draftsman
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but even these canvases show as one critic observed "a feeling for paint surfaces and color." by early 1938, de kooning met a young art student, elaine fried. the two were married in 1943. woman: when i first met bill a year after i got out of high school he was working on paintings of men. he began to make drawings of me. then from the drawings he began his series of women paintings. he really began them in the late thirties about 1939. narrator: de kooning later remarked to elaine "before i met you, my paintings were all quiet and serene. then they became turbulent." by 1945, de kooning achieved a rhythmic flow between painting and drawing. color and line merged,
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leading to the seminal work pink angels. he brought together two seeming opposites: figuration and abstraction. in 1948, at the charles egan gallery, de kooning had his first solo exhibition. elaine: he decided not to show any of the women that he had been working on or any of the, uh, abstractions that had a different direction were high in color. narrator: instead, he exhibited a dramatic series of bck and white enamel paintings. these dynamic works, with slashing, calligraphic brushwork and rich textures, echoed new york itself. "a forbidding place," as edwin denby wrote "of stres with consistent buildings forced in blocks reverberating." the city teemed and pulsed with people
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its tempo fast le jazz a place of darkness, violence, and eroticism. the artist said, "i'm not interested "in abstracting or taking things out. "i paint this way because i can keep putting more and more things in: "drama, ger, love, my ideas about space." in 1950, de kooning returned once again to the figure as his dominant theme. he began a new woman series. these paintings became famous...and infous. from large charcoal drawings he began woman one in june 1950. he painted it in bursts. over and over, he scraped it down reworked i even abandoned it. it took him 3 years to complete. exhibited in 1953, critical reaction focused on t subject:
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the emphatic overpowering female figure the new american woman in the avant-garde of her sex... terribly tough, big-city mid-20th-century dames. jackson pollock lamented de koonins turn tfire "you're l doin the same damn thing. you ver t t of being pnter de kooninglf saw ths comi linked to caricatures. he said, "i wanted them to be funny, "not look sad and downtrodden. so, i made them satiric, monstrous, like sibyls." another series of abstractions followed in the mid-fifties, based on the urban landscape. with swooping, slashing brushwork surfaces scraped and sca the works carry the frenetic energy of new york now with a wide palette of vibrant color. the gesture of the brush
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the texture of the paint become the subject. by the 1960s de kooning had gained an international reputation. [squawking] de kooning began spending more time out of the city on the quiet eastern end of long island. he had separated from elaine and a daughter, lisa had been born to the artist and joan ward. he purchased a house in springs-- near east hampton--in 1960 while still maintaining a new york studio. willem de kooning: i'm more interested in my own miracle in nature. i really get very, uh--like it, seeing that the sky is blue, the grass is green. it's the way it is. narrator: de kooning's last works painted in new york
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are expansive, light-filled, lyrical-- evoking the pastoral landscape beyond the city. on long island, de kooning designed and constructed a spacious new studio, and in 1963, movepeanentl toprings. woman: i think, ofourse, that the flatness of the land and in--and the water had a great influence on him and his painting, and we would quite often bicycle to louse point at sunset in the summertime. he was so excited about the color of the water. he would look at the flatness of the water and he would say, "now look at that. it's just quiet, like..." [inhales] "...quiet. then it jumps-- jumps out." the colors are both soft and then vivacious at the same time.
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narrator: he took his work in new stylistic directions. thick paint--viscous with oil-- was applied in loose easy strokes. the female figure returned as he explored the theme of the figure in the landscape. he said, "i can't get away from the woman. wherever i look i find her." in the 1970s, de kooning continued to explore the themes of woman and the landscape like the relentless waves of the sea. open compositions swelled like symphonies. broad, sweeping brushstrokes became in the 1980s fluid bands of iridescent color. in these later years the artist returned-- in a sense-- to his beginnings. the hand of the trained draftsman lies behind the calligraphic line that bends and lifts with balletic motion
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like a human figure in an endless dance through space. willem: you know how an artist works, and so i said that i understand those figures. i got a feeling like i came into a room someplace, and i've been introduced to someone. for a fleeting second, i had this glimpse of this thing... and i got interested in painting that and i find myself... staying with it, not so much this particular glimpse but the emotion of it.
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( orus joins in ) nativeusic, singing ) narrator: the island was encompassed
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ocean's waters and resonant with the songs of bds. there were wooded groves and well-kept fields; spacious villages, their lands neatly divided. the tips of the wild banana be suctively to thhand and when the wind blew the gods let fall a rain of flowers. what holy fire hides beneath the surface of the human world. ( mbling ) in the ancient time, the gods turned the ocean until its stark waters yielded upmerta, the elixir of life. ( thunder cracks ) gods and demons battled for possession of amerta. mortals went to their perdition weepin
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the storm. ( wind howling ) the water subsed b the rld was still unfixed. java was saved pinned to itplace halfway between earth and heaven at the foot of the sacred mountain,eru. ( chirping birds ( low musical tone ) ( music ) ( rhic tapping )
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( crickets chirping ) night in the village; light in the hse of the scrib from leaves of the lontar tree he recites the ancient text. ( man chanting in prayer ) the stories say only amerta brings eternal life.
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yet the stories themselves etched on palm leaves, carved in stone, shadows on a linen screen, are from a time before time. ( umbeat rhythcally ) the earliest indonesians are worshippers of the elements. theyive in small villages der thrule of local chieftains all things are alive with the spirits of ancestors. bring offerings in the beating of the drum
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and songs of praise, for you, too, shall be gathered to the faers. from india, powerful winds blow south and eas the islands of indonia lie directly itheir path. the sea trade brings new skills, new ideas, and village life yields to a world of palaces and kings. local craftsmen build shrines that celebrate thewo great religions of india buddhism and hinduism. ( steel drums beat rhytically )
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at the sanctuary of goa gajah, mysterious creatures guard the realm oford siva greatest of the hindu gods. deep within, three lingas, symbols of creation, mark his invisible presence. in buddhism, the unfolding of the self into ever-higher levels of awareness
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is imaged in the many-layered leaves and petals of the lotus. take refuge in the buddha and in h ernal law. turn from desire and leave behind the world of suffering. ( gong chimes discordantly ) be mindful of the teachings which reveal the order of existence and transcend passion, ceaseless and turbulent.
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where the gods nailed the island fast, between heaven and earth in the green heart of java the pilgrim reaches borobudor, the cosmic mountain. the ascent is a spiritual progress ich tranor the perception of and of space. the buddha of the east in the posture of meditation. e buddha of the north: absence of fear. e buddha of thwest: "i call the earth to witness."
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the buddha of the south: "i grant the wish of the suppliant." as the pilgrim journeys to the summit around and around the labyrinthine corridors narrative reliefs unfold before him. fables of enlightenment, from the buddha's 550 earthly lives. reborn one last time as prince siddhartha buddha tastes th sadness of human life. ma drawn forward by a hundred threads of hop does not see death as the wretched elephant sated by the pleasure of his food
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does not see his chains. on the narrow pathways the phenomenal world, spirits draw the pilgrim upward to a higher realm of formlessness. ( gongs chime ) e summit of borodor: round terraces meet open sky. no stories; the narrative is over. the ultimate is within sight though beyond the pilgrim's grasp.
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pilgrim, all things are mind. there is nothing to practice, nothing to prove nothing to gai nothing to lose. all is dream all is illusion. ( woman singing ) what powers lie in the hands of invisible gods?
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wayang, the play of shadows, is a distant survival of ancestor worship, the old faith of theslands. behind a linen screen, an unseen puppetmaster tells stories of heroes and kings. the figures are at once hidden and revealed. it is a kind of invocation controlled by the ritual magic of music a language. the spirit world appears in a benign and even pleasure-giving form.
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om where he stood, the son of the wind god sathe temple rise from the plain gleaming like crystal. its walls were adorned with trees and magic animals. great lions, monkeys, deer and the frail the kinnara, half-human, half-bird. rhytic tapping ) if borudor is a labyrinth, the ramayana reliefs at the hindu temple of prambanan are a ki of thter: ( various actors speaking ) the tales of the monkey king! lord garuda says "come, visnu, bearer of the sacred whl!" the fish in the said, "come, visnu!" thbrahman said, "comvisnu! come and save the earth from demons! " so visnu descended to eah as prince
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rama greaslayer of demons. but in the court of the king, his father rama's young and beautiful stepmother whispered against him. so prince rama and his wife sita were sent into exile with his brother the faithful lsma, in tark forest of dandaka. at the palace, the healess queen celebrated her triumph with music and dancing. rama and sita were happy in their green retreat until the clever demon king ansformed hielf into golden deer. ma set out to hunt the magic beast. sita was left alone. ( woman screams ) the quiet of her forest home was pierced by a serving maid's screams. the demon had come to steal sita away upsettinthe household's rice. in the confusion, th dogs had their fill. rama grieved and the forest fell silent.
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as he knelt to fetchater brother laksmana felt the patter of the salty rain. high in the treetop above him was the monkey king, weeping. "noble princes," he said "help me to rein my throne and i will rescue sitarom the demon." ( bells clanging monkeys hooting ) the great monkey army set out for the island of lanka to destroy the mon's stronghold with rama the arch and laksmana at its head. they did n neglect to bring their pet mongoose. when the battle was won, there was much feasting, with fish and sweet pancakes and leeks. even the brahmans drank palm wine till daybreak. the serving maids partook of the banquet and the high priests chand a prayer to lord visnu's divine incarnation.
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( instrument tapping ) rror: in the year 930, the temples and palaces of central java are suenly abandoned. the courts move east ( woman singing ) at dusk, the joyful canaries sing with voices sweeter than moonlight melodious and tender. ( singing continues )
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the snake woman spoke to the sage and said "the sun is setting. touch the water and honor the twilht. the lovely and perilous hour is here, when owls fly and lamps are lit." javanese art now achieves a classical perfection. sacred images transport the faithful to a realm of moral and aesthetic harmony.
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in the goddess of wisdom human and divine have become one. you are pale, friend moon. can it be that you, too, think only of the princess of kadiri? a blacksmith transforms and purifies the material world.
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from fragments of meteorite and iron ore sky and earth together he forges the keris-- sacred sword. e indonesians: brilliant metal woers since the dawn of histy, eated images of an enigmatic blacksmith hero whose craft mirrors that of the gods. in his holy fire base metal is refined and the soul after death made perfect and immortal. beyo the power of sword and fire, beyond the power of water and wind, the spirit is everlasting.
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in the 15th century, as the new faith of islam spreads from the northern coast the old believers retreat to the highlands. at the mountain temple of sukuh, the goddess durga, thunderbolts in hand, presides. and the turtlewho bear the ight of the ninefold world and comic demons whose origins go back to the archaic culture of the islands. the stones are carved with fables of resurrection anlord garuda stl guards thelixir ofif sacred bird, brighter than the splendor of the sun,
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proudly you bear amerta, the elixir of life. ongs of gold ar us wa for immortality is gold. to thee, lord garuda do we come f refuge. narrator: tell me tales of the old ways. let me return toti.
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"four centuries ago, the king's daughter fell sick and a wise wan from the south was called who healed the girl with her singing. in gratide the king entrusted her with his most valued possession: the magic scrolls-- wayang beber. ( native music ) us were the sclls preserved, for the wise wom's home was in pachitan
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ringed by mountains and far from the battlefields of the north." ( man chanting in prayer ) ki sarnen is 13th in the lineage of sacred singers from the wise woman's village of pachitan.
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the scrolls tell of prince panji who disguised as a humble storyteller in the marketplace wooed the beautiful princess of kadiri. ( sarnen speaking in native language ) accompanied by his two loyal demons prince panji rode into battle against his rivals for the hand of the princess. ( sarnen continues speaking ) interpreter: wayang beber is to keep
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a holy vow. when someone in the village has been sick, they call me to sing the scrolls. then everything is good again. narrator: the story ends with a truce a marriage, and a feast, beneath a rain of flowers. "as long as the rivers flow into the sea, these stories shall be told and retold."
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